What a school needs: a teacher or a manager?

– Aseem Saxena,  Faculty of Commerce & Management, Indore

Imagine the manager of any department of any organization, who is responsible for managing a budget, overseeing his staff, addressing the concerns and needs of passionate stakeholders, and is ultimately on the hook for delivering a “product” that will profoundly impact the trajectory of our country. We are envisioning that this person is a corporate Manager of a Fortune 500 company is the TEACHER of our school and the “product’ is a student, who after being groomed is going to face this dynamic world for his/her survival.

In today’s professional world, teachers are the managers of our nation’s schools. Just like the senior managers, heads of the various department in the school work strategically to hire the right staff, cultivate effective teachers at all levels of their department, ensure his colleagues with full support and held accountable for the results, create systems to promote efficient operations and cultivate a positive culture focused on their vision for success. Teachers are the executives responsible for academically building our nation’s future: the minds of our children.

Today the schools and hospitals are one of the biggest industries in our country. In the last 20 years, the commercialization of education had increased at its highest peak and became the evergreen area of investment for the business corporate houses. Every Indian wishes to give the best education to their children and is looking for the school which provides the best facilities to cater to their needs. The more you pay the more will be the facilities provided to your children – is the fundamental truth of such corporate schools.

Today the Teachers are in a top management position. Demands are placed on them 365 days a year, 24 hours a day; 7 days a week, and he is adjudged as the manager of today’s school. Much has changed over the last 20 years; the teacher is now judged by students’ achievements in academics as well as in the sports field too. The maximum selections of students from the school in IITs and Medical Colleges add the feathers in the cap of the teacher.    

Whenever a manager leaves his job in a corporate world, we pay attention to the impact on workers in the company, who the successor is, how it affects share prices and how the markets respond, and so on. But when a Teacher leaves a school, we don’t fully appreciate the deleterious impact such transitions have on students, families, and communities, as well as the fellow teachers and staff in the building. And, sadly but not surprisingly, we don’t respond with the same sense of urgency to address the problem.

Companies like Reliance, TCS, Microsoft, and many others have built campuses focused exclusively on leadership and team development. They understand that the success of their organizations is directly tied to the quality of their leaders. Regular executive and management development programs boost the morale of their employees. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in school education.  By ignoring school leadership, we are missing a prime opportunity to focus on a key differentiator in the Indian education system.

The success of an entire school depends on a strong Teacher: from making sure students feel safe and promoting a healthy lifestyle, full support to all his fellow-teachers across all grades and subjects by providing robust and engaging lessons. Teachers are ultimately responsible for ensuring all students to pass from their schools and be prepared to succeed in a global economy and to contribute meaningfully to their communities and society. This is a responsibility that demands nothing less than our full attention and strongest commitment towards the students and their parents. 

While school leadership is more important than ever, it’s also more complicated than ever. Teachers, who are heading their departments, are expected to attract and retain talented staff with minimum salary, build morale among their students, manage budgets, improve productivity, and create a vision and strategic plan. Many also contend with boosting parent engagement, building a school brand to increase student applications, and working with multiple external groups from unions to the media to community-based organizations.

We intuitively know that to remain a great country we have to provide a high-quality education for our children. No one would choose to stay with a bad boss if they could leave. Just as bad managers drive out great employees, great teachers only stay in schools where there is congenial working atmosphere, job security and respect from all the stakeholders of the school. By ignoring school leadership, we are missing a prime opportunity to focus on a key differentiator in education. We should be putting the same level of energy, thought, and resources into school leadership as some of the businesses that invest in leadership development. After all, one can argue, the teacher’s role is more important because they’re tasked with developing something much more important than products our children and our future…. 

Other articles by Dr Aseem Saxena

Remembering 100 years of Non-Cooperation Movement

Parent-teacher partnership need of today’s school education

Why teachers are angry?

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